Ukraine collects Russian dead as war rages on multiple fronts

KYIV: The bodies of Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine were brought to a rail yard outside Kyiv and stacked with hundreds of others in a refrigerated train, waiting for the time when they can sent back to their families.

“Most of them were brought from the Kyiv region, there are some from Chernihiv region and from some other regions too,” Volodymyr Lyamzin, the chief civil-military liaison officer, told Reuters on Friday (May 13) as stretcher-bearers in white, head-to-toe protective suits lifted bodybags into the box cars.

He said refrigerated trains stationed in other regions across Ukraine were being used for the same grim purpose.

While there have been no reliable estimates of the scale of Russia’s losses, the scene filmed by Reuters provided a bitter taste of the price President Vladimir Putin is paying since ordering the invasion of Ukraine on Feb 24.

A day earlier, Ukraine’s military released aerial photographs of the burnt out and abandoned remnants of a Russian armoured column caught trying to cross a river in the Donbas region, which has become the main battleground.

Reuters could not verify the Ukrainian report, but the British defence ministry said a pontoon bridge and parts of an armoured battalion had been destroyed at the Siverskyi Donets River, while Russian forces were trying to break through defences elsewhere in the Donbas.

“We are entering a new, long phase of the war,” Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in a Facebook post, predicting “extremely tough weeks” when Ukraine would largely be alone against an “enraged aggressor”.

Making their fastest territorial gains since forcing the Russian invaders to abandon an advance on Kyiv over a month ago, Ukrainian forces have driven their enemies away from the second largest city, Kharkiv.

The north-eastern city, which had been under fierce bombardment, has been quiet for at least two weeks. Reuters journalists have confirmed Ukraine controls territory stretching to the Siverskyi Donets River, around 40km to the east.

However, Moscow is still bombarding nearby villages, including Dergachi, some 10km north of Kharkiv.

“I can’t call it anything but a terrorist act,” Dergachi Mayor Vyacheslav Zadorenko told Reuters after missiles struck a building used to distribute aid.

Russia, which denies targeting civilians, said its forces had hit an arms depot, shot down a Ukrainian Su-27 aircraft in the Kharkiv region and disabled the Kremenchuk oil refinery in central Ukraine.

Reuters could not independently verify the claims.